Political News Updates

15.06.2014

Open Prisons

Sadiq Khan: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many prisoners serving custodial sentences for serious violent and sexual assaults were held in open prisons on 1 May (a) 2010, (b) 2011, (c) 2012, (d) 2013 and (e) 2014. [199513]

Jeremy Wright: Open prisons have been used since 1936, because they are the most effective means of ensuring that prisoners are suitably risk-assessed before they are released into the community under appropriate licence conditions. These prisons also provide effective supervision for prisoners who do not require the security conditions of the closed estate, because they have been assessed as having a low risk of harm to the public and a low risk of absconding by the independent Parole Board and/or NOMS.

Indeterminate sentence prisoners located in open conditions have been risk assessed and categorised as being of a low enough risk to the public to warrant their placement in an open prison. They will have previously spent time in prisons with higher levels of security, before being transferred to open conditions if recommended by the Parole Board—or directed through NOMS.

The main purpose of open conditions is to test prisoners in conditions more similar to those that they will face in the community. Time spent in open prisons affords prisoners the opportunity to find work, re-establish family ties, reintegrate into the community and ensure housing needs are met. For many prisoners who have spent a considerable amount of time in custody; these can assist in their successful reintegration in the community and protecting the public. To release these prisoners directly from a closed prison without the resettlement benefits of the open estate could lead to higher levels of post-release re-offending. The re-offending rates of those released from open prisons are low when compared to all prisoners released from custody in England and Wales.

Sadiq Khan: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many prisoners were held in open prisons on 1 May (a) 2010, (b) 2011, (c) 2012, (d) 2013 and (e) 2014. [199528]

Jeremy Wright: The following table identifies the total population of predominant function open prisons as at the last Friday in April in each year from 2010 to 2014.This includes open female prisons, open young offender institutions and the relevant open parts of multi-site establishments performing different functions; it does not include those held in non-predominant function open prisons or in small open units at closed prisons.

 

Total population in predominant function open prisons

2010

4,655

2011

4,711

2012

4,911

2013

4,993

2014

5,041

Open prisons have been used since 1936, because they are the most effective means of ensuring that prisoners are suitably risk-assessed before they are released into the community under appropriate licence conditions. These prisons also provide effective supervision for prisoners who do not require the security conditions of the closed estate, because they have been assessed as having a low risk of harm to the public and a low risk of absconding by NOMS and/or the independent Parole Board.

Indeterminate sentence prisoners located in open conditions have been risk assessed and categorised as being of a low enough risk to the public to warrant their placement in an open prison. They will have previously spent time in prisons with higher levels of security, before being transferred to open conditions if recommended by the Parole Board—or directed through NOMS.

The main purpose of open conditions is to test prisoners in conditions more similar to those that they will face in the community. Time spent in open prisons affords prisoners the opportunity to find work, re-establish family ties, reintegrate into the community and ensure housing needs are met. For many prisoners who have spent a considerable amount of time in custody; these can assist in their successful reintegration in the community and protecting the public. To release these prisoners directly from a closed prison without the resettlement benefits of the open estate could lead to higher levels of post-release reoffending. The reoffending rates of those released from open prisons are low when compared to all prisoners released from custody in England and Wales.

The public have understandable concerns in the light of recent high profile absconds. Keeping the public safe is our priority and we will not allow the actions of a small minority of offenders to undermine public confidence in the prison system. The number of prisoners absconding has reached record lows, down from 952 absconds in 1995-96 (the first year for which this data is available) to 204 in 2012-13, but we take each and every incident seriously. The Government has already ordered immediate changes to tighten up the system as a matter of urgency. With immediate effect, prisoners will no longer be transferred to open conditions if they have previously absconded from open prisons; or absconded or reoffended while released on temporary licence.

Philip Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) how many prisoners in open prisons have previously absconded or escaped from prison; [199723]

(2) how many prisoners in an open prison have previously breached a licence condition while released on temporary licence. [199722]

Jeremy Wright: Keeping the public safe is our priority. That is why this Government has taken action on both releases on temporary licence (ROTL) and absconds from prison.

We commissioned a fundamental review of ROTL policy and practice last year and, in March, announced a package of measures to ensure that the public was properly protected. We have brought forward some of those measures so that they take effect immediately; particularly with more serious offenders, where the review concluded that an enhanced risk assessment approach should be taken.

Absconds have reached record lows under this Government but each incident is taken seriously. Immediate changes have already been ordered to tighten up the system as a matter of urgency. Prisoners will no longer be transferred to open conditions or allowed out on temporary release if they have previously absconded.

Sadiq Khan: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many of those held in open prisons in each month in 2010 to 2013 had previously (a) absconded, (b) attempted to abscond, (c) escaped and (d) attempted to escape. [200226]

Jeremy Wright: Keeping the public safe is our priority. Absconds and escapes have reached record lows under this Government but each incident is taken seriously. Immediate changes have already been ordered to tighten up the system as a matter of urgency. Prisoners will no longer be transferred to open conditions or allowed out on temporary release if they have previously absconded, escaped, or attempted to do either.

My officials are currently working to provide the information requested. I will write to the right hon. Member in due course.